The Deaf Pilots Say Farewell To The 530

“Oh, here’s Chase, our bassist,” Ryan says, picking up his ringing phone. Derek and I are silent while The Deaf Pilots’ drummer Ryan Fairley tells Chase about the interview he’s missing, and relays Chase’s response: “It totally slipped my mind. Is there anything I should say?” Ryan asks him what he’s most excited about regarding the band’s upcoming move to Los Angeles. “The weather, the women, and the wine,” comes the answer. Fair enough. Singer and guitarist Derek Julian is excited to play a lot more shows and meet a lot more people in the music community. Ryan simply likes the not-knowing. “I’m just looking forward to the unknowable. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and I’m excited about that.”

The Deaf Pilots formed in 2009, and have rocked the North State with over a hundred shows since. They have two tours under their belts, two EP’s, and a self-titled full-length album they recorded with Scott Barwick at Origami Lounge. After five years of steady growth and solid rock in Chico, they’re taking their smooth blend of classic and modern rock to Los Angeles come July, and hopefully to the world soon after.

Listening to the self-titled album, Derek’s voice is what immediately stands out. Strong, soaring, and piercing, with tasty vocal harmonies and strikingly simple choruses, his voice is obviously the center-piece in most of the music, with the band’s excellent classic rock riffage focused on providing a solid background framework.

I ask Derek which of their songs holds the most meaning for him, and he describes their song “Edge Of The Earth” for me. “That one has a story to it,” he begins. “There’s a ship stuck out at sea, and sailing straight through this storm is the only way to survive. There’s this great building-of-the-storm feeling in the beginning, and you eventually get to this part in the music where you’re in the eye of the storm… right before it all just rolls over you…” He drifts off, a faraway look in his eyes. “In terms of making a work of art, that song would have to be the one.” Later in the day I listen to the track to see what he means, and I get it. Derek’s “eye-of-the-storm” part is probably one of the most notable parts in the album, using calm, crooning guitar voices to create a totally unique, clean atmosphere before the band breaks into a glorious finale of rolling riffage and a pretty dank solo. I didn’t hear anything in the lyrics about a ship, but I got the feeling. Buy the CD off them at one of their upcoming last Chico shows and see what I mean.

“Something I liked most about our time in Chico was the community of friends that we had coming out,” Ryan says, in response to my asking about The Deaf Pilots’ experience living here. “We had a core group of thirty or forty people that would go to the same shows, even if we were playing every week. That was great… A lot of college people, you know. There’s lots of cool places to play here, lots of really cool bands to play with.”

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“There was a time in 2012 and 2013 that a lot of people were coming to our shows; we were playing a lot of party gigs, and those were always packed,” Derek adds. “I remember playing a show at Fifth & Hazel, and there were so many people jumping in the house, we could feel the house shaking. It was a hundred-year-old house… we were afraid. Now, a lot of our friends are moving out of town, and we feel like we’ve kinda hit a peak of what we can get done here. It’s time to move on to keep it going.”

“Find more bands to play with, more bands to tour with,” Ryan adds.

“Some of the younger people here kinda half-ass it,” Derek says, grimacing as he remembers some of their less-organized local shows. “I’m excited to be working with more professional-minded people.”

“I always thought that if were gonna keep it together, we were gonna need to move,” Derek tells me. “We’d been talking about different cities we could move to… Portland, Seattle, L.A…. At some point while we were recording the album, we all sat down to talk about what we really wanted from the band. Ryan said he really wanted to be able to play music for a living. I remember I mentioned wanting to know how it feels to play in front of ten thousand people. Chase had something else cool that he wanted, I don’t remember what his was. From there, it felt like L.A. was the place most likely to provide all those things.”

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This Friday marks The Deaf Pilots’ second to last show before they move on to bigger and better things, and they’re providing plenty of great reasons to show up: It’s free. The pristine, prolific metal shredders Clouds On Fire are playing, along with the Tahoe-based rock duo Black Star Safari… And there’s going to be a raffle (although they wouldn’t reveal to me what the prizes were).

“Part of my dream is to preserve what was so great about classic rock,” Derek says, as our interview begins to wind down. “Thinking about my impact on music, I’d really like to bring that happiness back to modern rock. That high, positive energy… All those guitar solos, and those really high-pitched wails. I want to bring that back to modern rock.”

See The Deaf Pilots for free at DownLo, alongside Clouds On Fire and Black Star Safari, starting at 8:30pm. 

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Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.